Carol Doda, San Francisco Icon

Do you recognize this well-known North Beach figure? She’s seen here with visiting members of the Italian and Brazilian soccer teams at the Palace Hotel on Market Street, although her claim to fame has nothing to do with team sports. More like spectator sports.

Carol Doda displays her talents with visiting Brazilian and Italian soccer players, 1967. No photographer attributed.

BANC PIC 2006.029–PIC, Carton: P180, Folder: Doda, Carol — Topless

Carol Doda made history in June of 1964 when she performed at the Condor Club in a topless swimsuit, euphemistically dubbed a “monokini.” The first nightclub dancer of the era to go topless, Doda’s act was an instant sensation and set a trend soon adopted by every nightclub in the city. Many of the delegates attending the Republican National Convention in San Francisco that summer paid the Condor a visit to take in a little local color.

It took nearly a year for the forces of virtue to muster enough outrage in permissively hip San Francisco to get the vice squad to act on the obvious obscenities on display in the North Beach nightclubs. Doda and a few dozen other dancers and club owners were arrested on charges of “outraging public decency” and “lewd and dissolute conduct.” Justice was swift – presiding Judge Leo Friedman instructed the jury to return a verdict of innocent on the grounds that “Whether acts … are lewd and dissolute depends not on any individual’s interpretation or personal opinion, but on the consensus of the entire community … the test is what the people of San Francisco feel.”

Carol Doda acquitted on indecency charge, 1965. United Press International.

BANC PIC 2006.029–PIC, Carton: P180, Folder: Doda, Carol — Topless

Doda’s larger-than-life persona was immortalized in a patch of cement in front of the Condor Club in 1972; sadly, the impression no longer exists, but Carol Doda, defender of the Constitution, abides in our collective memories … and in the flesh as the proprietor of a lingerie boutique in the Cow Hollow neighborhood of San Francisco.

For a more detailed account of Carol Doda’s impact on the Bay Area and beyond, this 1966 Life magazine article by Alan Levy is an enjoyable read: http://tinyurl.com/7zanv3s

Carol Doda stands in wet cement in front of the Condor Club, 1972. Photo by Seymour Snaer.

BANC PIC 2006.029–PIC, Carton: P180, Folder: Doda, Carol — Topless

Carol Doda makes a good first impression, 1972. Photo by Seymour Snaer.

BANC PIC 2006.029–PIC, Carton: P180, Folder: Doda, Carol — Topless

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